Gurney Journey | category: Video


Gurney Journey

This daily weblog by Dinotopia creator James Gurney is for illustrators, plein-air painters, sketchers, comic artists, animators, art students, and writers. You'll find practical studio tips, insights into the making of the Dinotopia books, and first-hand reports from art schools and museums.

Teaser for Prehistoric Planet

BBC / Apple TV teased a sneak peek of Prehistoric Planet, narrated by David Attenborough. It mixes what appears to be live-action footage of hatchling turtles with computer-generated dinosaurs.

The dinosaurs are introduced out of focus as they were captured by a lens with shallow focus. The animators showed the killer instinct of the young T. rex as ice timing and storytelling, too. The animation shows a convincing sense of weight and momentum, not always easy to achieve in CGI.

Thanks, Josh Sheppard 

How to Edit an Art Video

The upcoming issue of International Artist Magazine has my top tips for making art videos.

How to Edit an Art Video

For example, here's what I suggest in the section on Editing:

Don’t waste the viewer’s time.
✅ Do cut anything that doesn’t advance the story.

Don’t hide your reference.
✅ Do show a short video clip of the scene you’re looking at or the photo you’re working from. To save cutting, put the subject and painting side by side in split-screen mode.

Don’t use gimmicky transitions.
✅ Do use straight cuts, dissolves (to suggest time passing between similar shots), and fade-to-black (for an interruption or shift in story).

Don’t leave out key steps, but at the other extreme, don’t be tedious.
✅ Do capture the key moments when you make noticeable changes. Show the steps along the way, without any large leaps. If there’s a part of the process that’s repetitive or boring, just include a representative segment of it, and then dissolve between clips of it at various stages, or speed up the playback.

Don’t just show off and make it look easy.
✅ Do share your mistakes. Show how to fix them. It goes against the presenter’s instincts to switch on the camera when things screw up, but it makes for better instruction and better storytelling. As YouTube community member Travis Noble said: “Watching an expert make mistakes is the best part of an art tutorial, because you learn truly what makes the difference between an expert and beginner is not in the mistakes but how they recover from them.”

How to Edit an Art Video
I learned a lot from the 200+ user comments from on my YouTube Community page. Thanks to all who contributed.

The article is in issue #143 (Feb/March 2022) of International Artist Magazine.

How Insects Fly, Shot in Slow Motion

Insect flight involves coordination and effort that can only be appreciated by slowing time. Taking off often requires precise movements of wings and legs to get the wings far enough off the ground.

This video is filmed at 32,000 frames per second, with narration that helps us see what's going on. Insects shown include stone fly, moth, firefly, mayfly and lacewing. Link to video on Youtube 

The Science of Color by Captain Disillusion

This new YouTube video by "Captain Disillusion" (Link to YouTube) explains a lot of important points about color: how we perceive it and how we chart it, from the hue circle of Isaac Newton to modern 3D luminance diagrams. 

Every second of the video is packed with information, all beautifully illustrated with motion graphics.  It goes by so fast you almost have to watch it twice to get it all.

For painters, a key quote is "A limited palette works just fine as long as the color relationships remain the same."

In the comments, can someone please share the links to the free software he mentioned that lets you chart 3D color gamuts and luminance charts?

Dark Crystal: Behind the Scenes

When Netflix released the fantasy series "Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance," they also shared a behind-the-scenes documentary called "Crystal Calls: The Making of Dark Crystal." 

Dark Crystal: Behind the Scenes
Image from Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, courtesy Netflix

The feature-length program explores how the new production builds on the vision of Jim Henson's original film from over 30 years ago. 

Dark Crystal: Behind the Scenes

In some initial tests, producers explored the idea of realizing the main Gelfling characters with CGI, pairing digital characters with real puppets for the reptilian Skeksis

But the CGI and physical puppets didn't pair up convincingly onscreen, so they decided to make them all as physical puppets.

Dark Crystal: Behind the Scenes

Most of the movements and expressions are manipulated by the performer. There's also some radio control and cable control, and a few of the blinks and other expressions are added digitally. 

Dark Crystal: Behind the Scenes

The production enlisted some of the best puppeteers at the top of their game, and even had a guest appearance from Barnaby Dixon, who has invented a new way to puppeteer with his fingertips. 

Dark Crystal: Behind the Scenes

In addition to making all the puppet characters, the production required elaborate handmade sets and props.

Dark Crystal: Behind the Scenes

Dark Crystal: Behind the ScenesSeveral of the key creative people from the original Henson production were recruited to the Netflix show, including Brian and Wendy Froud, who sketched and sculpted concepts for the characters and costumes. All images ©copyright their respective owners.
On Netflix: 
"Crystal Calls: The Making of Dark Crystal"
• The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance: Inside the Epic Return to Thra
• The World of The Dark Crystal
• The Dark Crystal: The Ultimate Visual History
Exhibit: Creatures from the Land of Thra: Character Design for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance
Courtesy of Netflix

Make Your Own Curved Track Dolly

Putting a camera on a curved dolly can add production value to a low-budget video. It's easy and inexpensive to build one. (Link to 13 minute YouTube video)

If the curvature is a section of a circle, and the camera is pointed toward an object placed on the center of a circle, that object will stay in the center of frame.

The movement of the camera is controlled with a geared down Lego motor. This one travels about one foot every 15 minutes, or about an inch minute.  

The cart is also made from Lego. I remove the tires from normal wheels and run the cart on the rims. The track is made from flexible Pex pipe, which you can get from the hardware store. 

Casey Childs Interview

Utah-based portrait painter Casey Childs has released his first video tutorial called "Painting the Direct Portrait." 

Casey Childs Interview

The video is a little over three hours long, and it covers the process of painting a head study of a young female model. 

The audio consists of the artist describing what he's doing and what he's thinking to a small studio audience, who occasionally ask questions.

Casey Childs Interview

He starts right out talking about materials, color choices, and how he lays out his palette. His first step is to tone the canvas with a light grayish brown color, and then block in the simple impression of the light and shadow pattern. He then builds the form by modulating the values and detailing the individual features. 

Casey Childs Interview

At a few points throughout the process, he clarifies his points with special graphics, such as as the high contrast image at left. 

For most of the video, you see a split screen, with the model on the left and the developing painting on the right. Whenever he pauses to mix a color, the edit cuts to a down-facing camera showing what's happening on the palette.

After watching the video, I asked him a few questions:

Gurney: Why did you choose that model, that pose, and that lighting? 
Childs: The model is the daughter of our good friend and neighbor. I chose her for her fair skin and red hair and thought it would be a great combination for a portrait. When setting up the pose, I'm simply looking for an interesting design—how the abstraction of light and dark shapes together make a compelling image. Part of the reason of this particular pose was that I knew I wouldn't be able to work as fast while explaining my process, so I made it easier on myself to not have to paint the other eye! Ha!

Would you have used a similar approach with a different model under different circumstances?
The approach would be the same for any other circumstance because this is how I'm always thinking about painting, although color choices and finish may differ depending on the finish and mood I'm trying to create.

Casey Childs Interview

Many other portrait painting teachers (such as Nathan Fowkes, Scott Waddell, Cesar Santos, and Jeff Watts) emphasize the importance of doing a careful structural line drawing before embarking in paint. In your approach, you start right out mapping tonal shapes and considering the edges between them, without defining the form or the structure. 
We all know that correct drawing is the most important aspect of any work, so I love how the structural method focuses on that first and foremost to make sure the drawing is sound before anything else is considered. But I feel like my art heroes—Sargent, Sorolla, Zorn, to name a few— considered all aspects (drawing, value, color, edges) that make up a great painting at once. 

What do you have to say about the structural foundation method? Why do you recommend your method? What are the advantages and limitations of it?
I'm constantly thinking about structure and form while painting, but trying to be more efficient in the application. I believe this method helps maintain an energetic freshness as well as being easier to create atmosphere. The danger is, that if not careful, the drawing can lose structure and forms can become too generic.

Casey Childs Interview
Casey Childs self portrait
How would you chart your confidence level throughout the process of doing this demo? Are there points in the course of the portrait where your confidence is shaky, or are you sure of yourself throughout? (My confidence level hits a low after the lay-in, and I find it takes a lot of faith to get me through, especially when I'm in front of an audience). 
If I'm not freaking out at least once during the process, the painting probably isn't any good. I think you need to take some risks to keep the application fresh and interesting. I've gained confidence in my process to the point where I have a pretty good idea what my painting will ultimately become with enough time. But I think doubts come when you stop trusting the process. 

How does filming and narrating your approach affect your confidence? What do you tell students who are blocked by fears or doubts? Is overconfidence a hazard?
There was definitely moments during this demonstration where I wasn't sure if I could bring it together into something resembling a human, but I got there by trusting the process.

Casey Childs Interview

Since this is your first major tutorial video download, what made you decide to shoot and edit the video in this way? What advice would you give to other artists who want to produce a tutorial download?
Well, you can't teach what you don't know, and I really feel like I've gained an understanding of foundational skills and a knowledge of seeing in this way (mass vs. line) to be able to explain it. I also feel like watching someone paint can be quite boring, so I knew I didn't want to produce a long video. I've put together a video that I think is informative with many key concepts demonstrated in three short hours that explain the basis of my approach. I felt it important to see the model in split screen to really show how I'm simplifying the complexity of the information I see on the model.

Casey Childs Interview

What are you trying to accomplish with your portraits? Are you trying to capture a specific likeness of your individual model, or are you going for more of a type or a character? Do you make any conscious changes or enhancements to express your personal impression of the model, or do you try to paint exactly what you see?
The basis of my approach to painting is capturing what I see. And I feel that is very beneficial in portraiture. It's not like I'm always going after a likeness, but it usually appears as a result of a careful search of the relationship of simple shapes and forms that are the characteristic and impression of the individual I'm painting. The question I'm often asked is how do I get a likeness, there's no secret or formula, it's just more accurate seeing and drawing.

Casey Childs Interview

For your studio compositions or portraits, do you use photographs for reference?  
Yes, I use photos. I think photos can be a great resource and tool for the artist, many of the great artists use(d) them. 

How do you feel about using photos?
With a solid knowledge of drawing and form, an artist can use photos with great results. Photos are not as useful when the artist is not using them as a reference and merely copying. 

Do you ever project or trace them? 
I don't have a problem with projecting or tracing. It's way to speed up the process, but its damaging if used to skip the training of learning how to see.

How does your thought process change when you use them?
We all know that photos can't replicate the values and color range our eye can see, so when using them I have to be aware of those differences. And along with that, I try not to copy exactly what I see in the photograph but instead use them as a reference to what I've observed from life. 
"Painting the Direct Portrait" is 192 minutes long. The digital download is $34.95. A combined package with DVD + digital is $69.99.

Review of new documentary WYETH

WYETH - Extended Trailer
A new documentary on Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009), which airs later today on PBS, gives a rich portrait of the life and work of this essential American artist.

Previous videos, including Michael Palin's Wyeth's World for BBC, David McCullough's The Wyeths: A Father and His Family, and Christina's World, narrated by Julie Harris, capture facets of his story, but this is the most complete and thorough production yet.

Andrew Wyeth's studio, © Phil Bradshaw, FreshFly
This new documentary dives deep into the archives, sharing Wyeth home movies, including a clip of N.C. Wyeth dressed up as a very scary Santa Claus. "I was terrified to the point that I wet the bed," Andrew remembers. 

We see NC's collection of stereoscopic photographs of World War I, the drama of which fascinated Andrew's father. In a remarkable visual effect, the directors fuse the stereo images of a battle trench, and fly into a 3D virtual image, an effect I've never seen before. 

Director Glenn Holsten and cinematographer Phil Bradshaw were inspired by Wyeth's artwork, handling many of the film's moments in emotionally resonant and visually powerful ways. For example, to evoke the terror and tragedy of NC's death from the train accident, we hear the sound of a train, and then we see a low and slow dolly shot over some train tracks, with dry leaves blowing in the wind.

Director Glenn Holsten sitting at the window in the Kuerner farmhouse
The film explores Wyeth's familiar haunts in Chadd's Ford and Maine at various seasons of the year, allowing us to see the viewpoints that inspired many of Andrew's paintings. There's archival filmed footage of Christina Olson, the subject of Christina's World. Helga, the model for Wyeth's secretive series of nudes in his later career, goes before the camera to speak about her recollections of Wyeth and their unusual relationship. There's a beautiful shot of her on a sunlit porch that almost looks like Andrew could have painted it. The film also takes a look at his friendships with the African-American community around Chadd's Ford. 

This production reveals how much Andrew Wyeth's work is cherished in Japan, where there have been several extremely popular books and exhibitions. Wyeth's paintings are in tune with traditional Japanese artistic sensibilities, which value change, transience, abstraction and negative space. This connection is enhanced by gorgeous shots of cherry blossoms and gardens shot in Japan.

Although she never appears in filmed interviews, Andrew's wife Betsy receives due recognition as the organizational and financial genius behind Andrew's success. She was the one who helped arrange his life to keep him painting, regardless of the demands that money and fame would otherwise have placed on him. She titled and catalogued his paintings and held him to high standards: "Betsy encouraged him to work on [a painting] until it couldn't be better." Her role as author and editor of the extraordinary books Christina's World and Wyeth at Kuerner's is also acknowledged. 

Arriving nearly a decade after his death, this video is an ambitious and comprehensive production which benefits from access to archives and to people close to Andrew Wyeth, evoking the strange magic behind his life and work.
Teaser for Prehistoric PlanetHow to Edit an Art VideoHow Insects Fly, Shot in Slow MotionThe Science of Color by Captain DisillusionDark Crystal: Behind the ScenesMake Your Own Curved Track DollyCasey Childs InterviewReview of new documentary WYETHThe Art of Movie Trailers

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